Pac-12 women's basketball teams gear up for critical conference tournament

The league's competitive regular season wrapped up this past weekend, with Oregon State being crowned regular season champions

The uber-competitive Pac-12 women's basketball regular season has come to a close, with the conference tournament action set to tip off this weekend. 

As teams look to make a statement in the conference tournament and battle for postseason positioning and a conference crown, here's the final women's basketball round-up of the season, with a preview of what's to come in Seattle and beyond:

Last Weekend's Storylines

Kelsey Plum has finally done it. Plum became the all-time leading scorer in women's basketball history with a stunning performance against Utah on Friday. She was also named the Pac-12 player of the year for a season in which she led the nation in points per game at an astounding 31.6.

Oregon State kept its crown for the third straight year, winning this year's regular season title outright after tying for first with ASU last season. The Beavers topped Stanford by a final of 50-47 on Friday to clinch the championship.

Player of the Weekend

Kelsey Plum | Senior PG | Washington
Thursday: 25 points, 5 rebounds, 6 assists in 79-46 win vs. Colorado
Saturday: 57 points, 8 rebounds, 1 all-time scoring record in 84-77 win vs. Utah 

Conference Tournament Preview

With teams locking into their positions for the Pac-12 tournament in the final weekend of the season, the bracket is finally set for this weekend's tournament in Seattle. Several potential match-ups stand out in a bracket that could very well provide a surprise champion.

Below is the bracket, with predictions for how the action will unfold throughout the next four days.

While Oregon State has been the hottest team as of late in the conference, Washington has the firepower to make a run at the conference title. Both of these squads have postseason experience from last year's trips to the Final Four. 

As far as who those two teams will likely face in order to get to the league title game, it's hard to believe that anyone other than UCLA and Stanford will be the other two semifinalists.The top four teams in the Pac-12 have spent the last two months separating themselves from the rest of the pack.

Opening Round (Thursday) 

No. 9 USC vs. No. 8 California – 12:30 p.m. MT: With the winner of this one facing Oregon State in the next round, it may seem like there's not much to play for, but a Cal team that started its season 13-0 and now sits at 18-12 has a chance to play its way into the NCAA Tournament with a win Thursday. The Trojans, of course, can certainly play spoiler.

No. 12 Utah vs. No. 5 ASU – 3 p.m. MT: The Sun Devils picked up some newfound momentum in their last three games, running past Arizona at home, dominating USC in the fourth quarter, and coming inches from an upset of UCLA. They'll have to beat the Utes in order to keep that momentum rolling, and will look to avenge their recent senior-day heartbreaker in the quarterfinals against UCLA.

No. 10 Colorado vs. No. 7 Washington State – 7 p.m. MT: Neither of these teams is playing for a tournament bid unless they can work a miracle and win the whole tournament. The likelihood of that happening is slim, with Stanford awaiting the winner on Friday. 

No. 11 Arizona vs. No. 6 Oregon – 9:30 p.m. MT: Oregon isn't necessarily in a must-win situation against Arizona, but a loss on the opening day of conference tournament action would certainly have the Ducks biting their nails on Selection Monday. 

Other Intriguing Potential Matchups

No. 5 ASU vs. No. 4 UCLA, Quarterfinals: ASU proved this weekend that it can hang with a team like UCLA, which is huge for the Sun Devils' confidence heading into the NCAA Tournament. An upset of the Bruins in Seattle could be the spark ASU needs for a run in March.

No. 4 UCLA vs. No. 1 Oregon State, Semifinals: The Bruins could very well provide for the biggest surprise of the tournament if they get past their quarterfinal game and take on the top-seeded Beavers. UCLA and OSU split their regular-season series this season.

No. 3 Washington vs. No. 2 Stanford, Semifinals: Assuming the Cardinal and Huskies can get past their quarterfinal match-ups, this would be a mammoth basketball game in the semifinals. Aside from conference ramifications, the winner likely gives itself a shot at a two-seed in the NCAA Tournament.

Bracketology

In the final regular-season bracketology projection by ESPN's Charlie Creme, the Pac-12 once again has six teams in the field of 64, with one more sitting on the bubble. 

Oregon State – No. 2 Seed vs. No. 15 UC Davis: A few wins in Seattle will likely lock the Beavers into a two-seed, but a Pac-12 title could very well push them to the top line of the bracket.

Washington – No. 3 Seed vs. No. 14 Chattanooga: Washington seems to have lost its chance at the top line, but running the table in Seattle could have them as high as a two-seed.

Stanford – No. 3 Seed vs. No. 14 Stetson: Stanford is in a similar position to Washington, pretty much being guaranteed a top-four seed at the very least. 

UCLA – No. 4 Seed vs. No. 13 Western Illinois: UCLA probably could use one more win to ensure they host their first two NCAA Tournament games. 

ASU – No. 7 Seed vs. No. 10 Iowa State: At this point, the Sun Devils will almost certainly be in the tournament and are just playing for seeding and – more importantly – momentum. 

Oregon – No. 9 Seed vs. No. 8 Marquette: The Ducks look like they'll be a tournament team as long as they can take care of business against Arizona. 

California – First Four Out: The Golden Bears have themselves in the league's toughest position, needing at least one win to play their way into the field of 64. 


Reach the reporter at jeff.griffith21@asu.edu or follow @Jeff_Griffith21 on Twitter.

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